The COVID-19 pandemic has forced large numbers of corporate employees to work from home, and in many instances, they will keep working remotely until mid-2021 and beyond. Even in a post-COVID world, it’s predicted that many companies will offer the flexibility of a hybrid work schedule, allowing employees to divide their time between a home office and the corporate office.
What’s going to happen to all those chef-driven onsite foodservice programs—many of which are positioned as a perk to lure workers to Google, Apple and other corporate giants?
“You don’t need a 3,000-square-foot cafeteria or several onsite restaurants when only 20% to 25% of the workforce is there at any one time,” says Ali Sabeti, CEO of ZeroCater, a corporate catering and snack platform. Additionally, head counts are going to be unpredictable and can vary greatly from day to day, he believes.
Last week, Sabeti rolled out CloudCafe, a digital solution for the new hybrid workplace. The platform is populated with hundreds of restaurants and caterers, which prepare meals out of central commissaries in various cities.
“One commissary can feed up to 2,000 people for $6 a meal,” he says, “but groups of any size can sign on.”
Like the corporate cafeteria, CloudCafe offers employers the opportunity to pay for all or part of their employees’ meals.
“A recent survey of our customers showed that their top concerns when it comes to their teams working from home are lower employee engagement and decreased productivity,” says Sabeti. “We’re seeing companies across all industries prioritizing feeding their teams as a new way to keep employees engaged, productive and safe on the days they decide to come into the office.”
Once a company signs on, each employee downloads the app and fills out taste and cuisine preferences as well as health restrictions. Using AI, CloudCafe curates a weekly menu of rotating meal choices. Employee feedback is continually fed into the database to further customize meals.
Sabeti said the platform currently offers 120 different cuisines and 35,000 items, but he intends to add more as it evolves.
“We’re ramping up offerings to include healthier options and more portable foods, like burritos and bowls,” he says. “There’s a shift from the traditional plate of an entree and sides.”
As businesses and office buildings began reopening after the first wave of the pandemic, onsite feeding options were still limited and many employees turned to third-party delivery platforms. Sabeti sees CloudCafe as a more economical and efficient alternative for the employee and a way to provide a consistent benefit by the employer.
“Going forward, there won’t be one corporate feeding model, even within one company,” Sabeti believes. “There will be the office evangelists and the work-from-home evangelists. Engineers and finance people may prefer to work in isolation, while those in sales may be more productive in teams.”